Bøsse: In Danish, Both ‘Shaker’ and ‘Gay’

Having opened the possible closet of implication hidden in the all-male sets of salt and pepper shakers I’ve been looking at in my last few posts, I’ve found myself wondering if indeed there are any out and openly gay shaker sets in existence.  A little bit of Googling led me to this pair:

Friends_Salt_-_Pepper_Side_TH vs HMN 1
Photo: Normann-Copenhagen

According to the “Excerpt from the press release” about them reprinted on the website where I found them, this pair are, if not openly and proudly gay, certainly willing to tease people about the possibility:

The anonymous artist, HuskMitNavn, and designer, Troels Øder Hansen, have created yet another quirky design for Normann Copenhagen–one with both edge and a twinkle in its eye.  The pair of salt and pepper shakers–which have been nicknamed Gordon & Andreas–belong to the Friends series which stands out as having personality, humour and character. The design plays on the double meaning of the Danish word ‘bøsse’ (which means both ‘shaker’ and ‘gay’), and the two friends come with or without a painted leather vest, signifying either the salt or the pepper shaker.


How can an artist with a name simultaneously be anonymous, you ask?  It’s because his or her name means “Remember My Name”  in Danish: see his or her website here.  While this not-all-that-ambiguously gay duo is currently out of stock as I write this, they are usually for sale on the Normann website for $40 US.  Normann offers this excellent reason for purchasing them: “one cannot help but smile when the two Friends appear on the table.”

It’d be interesting to consider why.  What’s so funny?  Especially, what kinds of gay stereotypes does this pair engage and expresse and/or satirize?  And anyway, exactly what is it about them that specifically implies gayness?  What makes handlebar moustaches and bare chests and a black vest more clearly gay than, say a couple of raincoats and a sou’wester (a la the aging sailors of an earlier post) or an eyepatch and a wooden leg (a la the aging pirates of my last post)?

But what most fascinates me here is the idea that in Danish, the same word means both “shaker” and “gay.”   Who knew?  This put a whole different light on the implications of the act of shaking shakers that I discussed a couple of months ago.   As I said then:

Shaking such already minimized objects just seems to add more intensity to the minimization and control.  We are being invited, it seems, to buy and make use specifically of shakers that represent particular things we do feel threatened by–by, say, the bodies of women (see earlier posts on breasts and amputees), or animals and animality generally (in regard to shakers depicting lions or cats or lobsters or poodles) or by “savages” (the cute aboriginals) or other people of colour (Aunt Jemima).  Shaking of shakers is inevitable.  Violence against the object they depict is, it seems, mandated and allowable–and often, for a lot of us, I suspect, very, very satisfying.

So now, I guess, I have to add gay people to the list of those who deserve a good shaking?  The Danes, apparently think so.  Or maybe the Danes are thinking about a different kind of shaking?  Like in shake it up, baby, or shake your bootie, etc.?

Well, no, apparently they don’t.  According to Wiktionary:

bøsse c (singular definite bøssenplural indefinite bøsser)

  1. shotgun
  2. gay, (homosexual male)
    Vi har jo længe vidst, at han var bøsse.

    We’ve known for a long time that he was gay.
  3. castorcaster, (shaker with perforated top)

That last one is definitely a salt or pepper shaker.  But wait a minute–a gun?  So now it appears that a gun is a “bøsse,” too, along with a salt-and-pepper-like shaker and being gay.  So what it it about these three things that allows them to share a word?  One shoots, one invites shaking, and the third . . .?  ‘Tis a mystery, at least to me.

Published by pernodel

Children’s literature critic and author of books for children

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